Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Tying Up Loose Ends

Posted: July 14, 2014 in Egypt, Israel, The Army, The Blog
I'm just using this blog post as an excuse to include this picture because it falsely depicts me as a bad ass but its a reputation I hope proliferates via word of mouth.

I’m just using this blog post as an excuse to include this picture because it falsely depicts me as a bad ass but it’s a reputation I hope spreads like wild fire.

It has been an extremely busy two months but I am happy to say that I am back Stateside for the foreseeable future.  Now that the dust of our triumphant return from Egypt has settled, I have decided to quit being lazy and try to tie up a few loose ends from my time overseas.  The next few posts in the coming days/weeks/whenever I feel like it will include my trips to Jerusalem and Kuwait City, as well as a final word on my time in Egypt and at the Red Sea.  Why I didn’t use my down time while deployed to post these updates will remain a mystery to both you and me but better late than never.

Am I right or am I right?

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Easter Morning Sunrise Service

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Egypt, Life

 

The sun trying to peak through the clouds over Tiran Island.

The sun trying to peak through the clouds over Tiran Island.

This morning I had the privilege of attending the Chaplain’s sunrise service down at our little piece of the Red Sea coast here at South Camp.   While it was fairly overcast by south Sinai standards, the sun did its best to finally make an appearance during the sermon and closing music (and I feel like showing up was the least it could do considering we were having a sunrise service, after all).

Now, I can hardly stake claim as the world’s most religious person but it is hard to argue with the peace and tranquility of the view above.  Short of actually being in the Holy Land during such religious holidays, there are few moments more surreal for me than this morning.  To be attending an Easter Service in the Sinai while overlooking a sunrise above the Red Sea is a blessing in and of itself, and the theological significance is not lost on me.  These little moments truly help keep everything in perspective.

There are a number of friends and family members that I wish could have shared in this whole experience with me (not just today), or even in my place, as I know that they would have appreciated it even more so than I do.  I just hope that, at minimum, I have done a fair job of bringing everyone along  with me on this journey thus far.

And, more importantly, I hope everyone enjoys their holiday weekend!

Happy Easter!

Acts of Kindness

Posted: April 18, 2014 in Egypt, Life, The Army

As I sit in my room, taking yet another break from the packing process that marks the final few weeks of my time in the Sinai, I am able to reflect on the past eight months here in Egypt.  More importantly, as I thumb through the countless letters, cards, gifts, and words of encouragement — most of which are from perfect strangers — I am once again overcome with a sense of astonishment at the kindness of average people, most of whom I do not even personally know.  And I mean absolutely no insult by the phrase “average people.”  In fact, it is just the opposite; incredible people committing extraordinary acts of kindness.  I only use the term “average” in that I have come to the realization that these folks are the rule not the exception.  The only reason such acts seem so uncommon is that those instances simply do not get the recognition deserved.

If you are friends with me on Facebook then you have likely already seen me post on several occasions the care packages or gifts I have received from individuals, organizations, and sports teams leading up to, and throughout, the holidays and beyond.  It all started back in the fall when I was looking for a copy of Jurassic Park and dropped a line to a group known as Books For Soldiers.  This nonprofit was organized during the original Gulf War to provide free, new or gently used books upon request for service members overseas.  After submitting my address, I thought nothing more about the book until a copy of Jurassic Park arrived in the mail a few weeks later with a personalized letter.

From Facebook on October 4, 2013:  Jurassic Park was the first adult novel I ever read back in 5th grade, it was the only book we had in Basic Training when another Soldier snuck it in to the barracks and we passed it around in the evenings to cure boredom, and it's generally one of my favorite books. I've been wanting to read it again just for kicks but couldn't find a copy around here. I randomly stumbled across www.BooksForSoldiers.com the other day and submitted a request for Jurassic Park in paperback, not thinking anymore about it. That was about two weeks ago. Yesterday, a small care package arrived from the Friends of the Hickory Corner Library (East Windsor, NJ) with the book, along with a personal letter thanking me for my service. In reality, I'm the one who should be thanking the person who took the time to acquire, package, and send a book to someone they've never even met. A random act of kindness that really made my day. So while the jackasses in Washington fight like children and play games with many Americans' livelihoods, it's nice to be reminded that there are still good and decent people in this world that just try to make someone else's day just a little bit brighter.

From Facebook on October 4, 2013:  “Jurassic Park was the first adult novel I ever read back in 5th grade, it was the only book we had in Basic Training when another Soldier snuck it in to the barracks and we passed it around in the evenings to cure boredom, and it’s generally one of my favorite books. I’ve been wanting to read it again just for kicks but couldn’t find a copy around here. I randomly stumbled across http://www.BooksForSoldiers.com the other day and submitted a request for Jurassic Park in paperback, not thinking anymore about it. That was about two weeks ago. Yesterday, a small care package arrived from the Friends of the Hickory Corner Library (East Windsor, NJ) with the book, along with a personal letter thanking me for my service. In reality, I’m the one who should be thanking the person who took the time to acquire, package, and send a book to someone they’ve never even met. A random act of kindness that really made my day. So while the jackasses in Washington fight like children and play games with many Americans’ livelihoods, it’s nice to be reminded that there are still good and decent people in this world that just try to make someone else’s day just a little bit brighter.”

As you can tell, I was a bit surprised and even more flattered by the fact that someone I had never met took the time to do something of this nature for me.  Obviously I understand that this is what the organization does, but that fact did not make it any less of a breath of fresh air.

I had seen a number of similar support groups online for deployed service members to that point, but a combination of the skepticism of the legitimacy of any potentially random website, the apprehension of divulging complete personal information to a web form, or just a general feeling of a lack of claim to any “freebies” because I was not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan had all previously led me to dismiss any such organizations.  And wrongfully so.

After the success with Books For Soldiers I decided to submit my information to a wide array of groups, having a little fun with the process around the holidays, and I was not disappointed.  Since October, I have heard back from a number of charitable organizations, each of which sent more than one care package, including Bunkers In Baghdad, Operation Support Our Troops – America, and Treat The Troops, as well as companies such as Zippo, the Cincinnati Reds, and WWE, all of which sent free merchandise to pass out to my guys at Christmas.

And then I heard back from the Cincinnati Bengals, who sent the following:

From Facebook on December 13, 2013:  "A few of us in my barracks building decided to put posters on our doors of our favorite teams for the NFL season and I started it out with the standard-sized Cincinnati Bengals 2013 schedule poster (not pictured). Amid the boredom of the daily grind out here, I decided to e-mail the Bengals and see if they'd be willing to send anything they had to help my cause since what started as a harmless poster on my door had now become a bit of a team spirit competition among a few of us. To my surprise the Bengals not only responded to my e-mail but also told me that a package was on its way. I was only expecting some left over promotional items, outdated game programs, or expiring team calendars, just something to look forward to getting in the mail. What I received on Thursday went well beyond even my highest expectations. The Cincinnati Bengals sent me a 6 foot by 30 foot canvas banner that one would assume hung somewhere in Paul Brown Stadium during the military appreciation home games of November. The banner reads "SALUTE TO SERVICE --MILITARY APPRECIATION--" and is flanked by the Bengals' and NFL's logos. The fact that someone within the Bengals franchise read my e-mail and saw to it that this massive banner made it successfully out to the Sinai is awesome and it's easily one of the coolest things any company or organization could have sent me. I'm sure they get plenty of requests on a weekly basis so they didn't even have to respond to my e-mail, let alone send me what they did. Kudos to the Bengals for an extremely cool act that many in my building were impressed with, myself included. I'm a die-hard Bengals fan and while I've been a life-long fan of the team I've also been one of their biggest critics for actions both on and off the field. They're not always perfect but this classy gesture only further solidifies my loyalty to the team and makes me proud to be a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals."

From Facebook on December 13, 2013: “A few of us in my barracks building decided to put posters on our doors of our favorite teams for the NFL season and I started it out with the standard-sized Cincinnati Bengals 2013 schedule poster (not pictured). Amid the boredom of the daily grind out here, I decided to e-mail the Bengals and see if they’d be willing to send anything they had to help my cause since what started as a harmless poster on my door had now become a bit of a team spirit competition among a few of us. To my surprise the Bengals not only responded to my e-mail but also told me that a package was on its way. I was only expecting some left over promotional items, outdated game programs, or expiring team calendars, just something to look forward to getting in the mail. What I received on Thursday went well beyond even my highest expectations. The Cincinnati Bengals sent me a 6 foot by 30 foot canvas banner that one would assume hung somewhere in Paul Brown Stadium during the military appreciation home games of November. The banner reads “SALUTE TO SERVICE –MILITARY APPRECIATION–” and is flanked by the Bengals’ and NFL’s logos. The fact that someone within the Bengals franchise read my e-mail and saw to it that this massive banner made it successfully out to the Sinai is awesome and it’s easily one of the coolest things any company or organization could have sent me. I’m sure they get plenty of requests on a weekly basis so they didn’t even have to respond to my e-mail, let alone send me what they did. Kudos to the Bengals for an extremely cool act that many in my building were impressed with, myself included. I’m a die-hard Bengals fan and while I’ve been a life-long fan of the team I’ve also been one of their biggest critics for actions both on and off the field. They’re not always perfect but this classy gesture only further solidifies my loyalty to the team and makes me proud to be a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals.”

The original idea was to have a little fun and cure a little boredom during the winter grind and the response was not only unexpected, it was down right humbling.  Bunkers In Baghdad sent multiple boxes of golf clubs, golf balls, and golf memorabilia; Operation Support Our Troops – America sent several boxes containing snacks and toiletries; and Treat The Troops sent an assortment of cookies, candy, and comfort items on four separate occasions via the Iowa Cookie Crumbs and the Council Bluffs Centennial Rotary Club, both of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  My Platoon and I even received care packages and hand-made cards and letters from the students of Imagine Clay Avenue Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio, the National Junior Honor Society of Falling Creek Middle School in Chesterfield, Virginia, and the congregation of God’s Grace Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky.

A few holiday care packages.

A few holiday care packages.

I never like to be too far from a golf club, even if I live in one giant bunker.

I never like to be too far from a golf club, even if I live in one giant bunker.

Don't worry, Mom, I don't smoke.

Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t smoke.

The WWE has a long-standing reputation of supporting the Troops and as a childhood fan they didn't let me down.

The WWE has a long-standing reputation of supporting the Troops and as a childhood fan they didn’t let me down.

Seeing return addresses from the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds never gets old.

Seeing return addresses from the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds never gets old.

As you can see I was more than spoiled but don’t worry, all of the items were shared with the guys.

From Facebook on February 18, 2014:

I continue to be amazed by, and grateful for, the generosity of perfect strangers. Once again, I dropped my name in to a virtual hat and shortly thereafter received an incredible care package for my efforts from people I have never met. This time the culprits were the fine folks of Treat The Troops via the Rotary Club and other thoughtful residents of Council Bluffs, Iowa. I had since forgotten about adding my name to their mailing list so when a box full of cookies, candy, and words of encouragement showed up in today’s mail run I was that much more surprised and appreciative. These gestures maintain my faith in humanity and prove there is a lot of good left in America regardless of what the news will have you believe. As cliché as it sounds, it is the little things in life that can have the biggest impact on someone’s day, as I can attest to with this afternoon’s care package. You may never know what someone is going through but just the slightest act of kindness could be the difference so pay it forward and do something nice for someone today.”

These sentiments ring true now more than ever and I do not believe all of the aforementioned organizations, companies, schools, and people fully understand how much their unconditional support means to me.  This experience has truly renewed my faith in many facets of life.

Not to be outdone, however, are my close friends and my family — my rock and my foundation.  The support and encouragement (and letters, and cards, and packages, and gifts) from those who matter most to me continue to be what drives me each day.  There are too many individuals to name for fear of leaving someone out but they know who they are and I hope they know how much they, and their unconditional love and loyalty, means to me every morning I wake up.

A quote that I recently discovered that has stuck with me throughout this deployment, and I feel is only fitting in this instance, comes from Robert Kennedy, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”   No matter how big or small, any positive contribution goes a long way in making things better and can have a lasting impact far greater than one might imagine, as evident by the outpouring of support mentioned above.  And while the media is chock full of negativity and the 24-hour news networks will find ways to further divide our country just to earn a dollar, it is refreshing to see people put their differences aside and simply support one another as Americans and as human beings.  Once again I say that you may never know what someone is going through on any given day so before passing judgement understand that just the slightest act of kindness could be the positive difference that person needs.

So pay it forward and do something nice for someone today.

Back in August of 2011 I wrote about My First Round Of Golf In South Korea and back in June of 2012 I posted a picture on Facebook about my first round of golf in Texas, so I figured it was only right to do a similar service to my first round of golf in Egypt.

IMG_0406

Last Friday, the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) program here at MFO South Camp, along with the British ex-patriots that work both MFO-related and non-MFO-related jobs in Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted a four-man golf scramble at the local Jolie Ville Resort.  The majority of teams consisted of three US Soldiers and one civilian counterpart familiar with the course, which gave us an opportunity to meet and mingle with some non-military English speakers.  The British civilian on our team — we’ll call him Charlie because, well, that’s his name — owns a local British style sports pub called The Tavern in the nearby resort area of Naama Bay, so we hit it off almost immediately.  What’s not to like about a British guy who shares my love for sports and beer and casually throws around the term “wanker”?

The golf outing was the first time any of us had left South Camp for recreational purposes, or anything other than mission for that matter, so it was nice to get out and swing a club.  We’re typically not allowed off of camp but we were given an exception for this nice event as long as proper accountability was maintained and some senior leadership was present.  This could have been the only opportunity for us to leave post or play a round of golf  so we were set out to enjoy the day, win or lose.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Charlie largely carried our team; however, I felt like I played alright myself considering I had not played a round of golf since mid-August and the clubs I used were a collection reminiscent of Happy Gilmore’s first set — the only thing missing were gym socks as club head covers and some vagrant as my caddie.

Otto

We shot a respectable-yet-disappointing 68 as a team (Par 72) and finished fourth overall — out of 16 teams — behind a winning score of 65 and two teams tied at 67.  I was hoping to take home some hardware after all the crap I talked during the weeks leading up to the outing but we were unable to win, place, or show and I had a disappointing showing on the closest-to-the-pin and long-drive holes.  Only small letdowns, however, on an otherwise beautiful and enjoyable (and potentially rare) day off of post.

And hey, it’s like they say: a bad day golfin’ is better than a good day at work!